The Buffalo Sabres are all over the headlines leading up to the NHL Draft – including the possibility of landing pending unrestricted free agent superstar Steven Stamkos.
Easily the biggest name that could possibly hit the market on July 1, Stamkos is rumoured to be targeted by numerous teams including the Sabres. Buffalo is certainly a possibility with it being so close to his hometown – Toronto – and because the Sabres have the cap room to sign the forward to a long-term deal.
According to TSN Insider Darren Dreger, the Sabres seem to be willing to go all in on an offer for the pending UFA.
“There’s a lot of speculation that they’re going absolutely all-in on Steven Stamkos,” said Dreger on TSN 690 in Montreal. “I mean, some of the numbers being rumoured – and I always hate throwing out or building off rumours, because as an Insider, our job is to separate fact from fiction. But Newport isn’t talking and neither are the Tampa Bay Lightning, so nothing has changed there. But some of the numbers being speculated on are upwards of $12 million per year coming out of Buffalo.”
If the Sabres are able to draw the eye of Stamkos in free agency, it could be an important stepping stone toward signing newly acquired NCAA standout Jimmy Vesey. The Sabres traded a third round pick to the Nashville Predators for Vesey’s negotiating rights earlier this week.
Stamkos would also be an important veteran presence for a young – but talented – team who employs skilled players like Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart. While the speculated $12-million AAV wouldn’t make Stamkos a max contract player (which we still haven’t seen in the NHL), it would slot him in as the third highest paid player behind Anze Kopitar ($14 million) and Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews ($13.8 million).
It would also lock up $23 million in two players (Stamkos and O’Reilly) on the Sabres roster, if in fact Stamkos is signed to a $12-million per year deal. But if the Sabres are willing to go all-in, that might be what it takes.